Unfortunately, South Africa’s final body count for 2012 was even higher than expected. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs announced on January 10th, 2013, that a total of 668 rhinos were massacred in the country in 2012.
In 2012, the Kruger National Park was the hardest hit by poaching, losing 425 rhino. The North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces suffered the greatest losses, collectively accounting for the loss of 202 rhino in 2012.
A total of 267 suspects were arrested for rhino crimes in South Africa last year.
At least five rhinos have been slaughtered in South Africa since the start of the new year. Defenceweb.com reports that three rhinos were killed in Kruger National Park, two in the Houtboschrand area and another in the Lower Sabie region. Two more were killed at the Madikwe game reserve in North West province, however, the killers were apparently disrupted and managed to take the horns from just one of the rhinos.
In the Indian state of Assam, two male rhinos were killed for their horns, according to the Times of India. One of the rhinos was found in the Gopaljaroni area near Gohpur in Sonitpur district. Besides the missing horn, the tail and “other body parts” were chopped off. The other was found in the Morigaon district near the Brahmaputra river. Twelve people were detained in connection with the Gohpur incident.
This double tragedy came just days after forest guards arrested the leader of a rhino killing gang, identified as Ikramul Islam, after he sneaked into Orang.
A male rhino was also found dead in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal. However, this was likely due to fighting with another male over a female. The rhino was estimated at nearly 40 years old; his horn was intact.
Thanks to receiving a tip-off, authorities in Nepal raided the Lalima Hotel in Itahari and nabbed two suspects in possession of a rhino horn. The duo was identified as Rajan Prasad Nepal and Arun Kumar Mahato. MyRepublica.com reports that Mahato was an employee of the hotel. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve administration will decide the fate of the smugglers, who could face up to 15 years in prison.
On January 6th, 2013, a tip-off in Thailand led to the arrest of Pham Quang Loc at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Four rhino horns were found hidden inside a hippo figurine, which the Vietnamese national had stashed in his luggage. He had arrived from Addis Ababa on Ethiopia Airlines flight ET618.
That same day in Vietnam, a suspect identified as Ha Chan Chinh was arrested at Tan Son Nhat International Aiport in Ho Chi Minh City. Chinh had attempted to hide six rhino horns wrapped in foil inside his luggage. He arrived from Doha via Bangkok on Qatar Airways flight 616, and said that he had transported the horns from Mozambique.
Rhishja is the founder of Annamiticus, a nonprofit organization which provides educational information and news about wildlife crime and endangered species. She is the Editor of the blogs Annamiticus, Rhino Horn is Not Medicine, and Project Pangolin, a Producer for the upcoming documentary "The Price", author of the book "Murder, Myths & Medicine", and host of the "Behind the Schemes" podcast. When Rhishja is not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, she enjoys rocking out to live music.